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To James, and to his disciples—of which there were many—Booker was not like them. Booker lost, but in doing so, won: He starred in Street Fight, a documentary about the campaign, which received high praise from critics and an Oscar nomination.

When he returned to challenge James in 2006, he was a celebrity with a chip on his shoulder.

James defended his decades-long rule of Brick City by using Booker’s made-for-campaign-literature biography against him.

Having been born in the late ’60s, Booker was young—maybe too young.

It’s eight o’clock on a Sunday night in Jersey City, and for the first time this October it’s cold enough to see your breath in front of you with a deep exhale of the Hudson River air.

It’s curious, given that, to see a group of a few dozen residents and visitors from neighboring towns assembled in a parking lot next to the train station—while the New York Giants are playing, no less.

Booker made himself available to his constituents—through social media, by phone, on the street late at night—and when they sounded the Booker-signal, he would personally address their problems. But even if it were Sharpe James-type shit, it could never overshadow the Cory Booker-type shit that made him so beloved: his sincere delivery of corny tropes about Believing In Yourself and Finding The Good In Others, his knack for remembering names, and his Clintonian ability to connect with any and every individual who makes contact with his big, hazel eyes—be they a drug addict, a hedge-fund manager, or a small child staring up at his 6’3” frame like he is some holy cross between Le Bron James and Zeus.

It was always assumed that Booker would be moving on to something bigger than Newark—to the governor’s mansion, it seemed obvious, but then that didn’t look like such a great idea: The fall before Chris Christie’s reelection campaign brought Hurricane Sandy, and with it, approval ratings so high for him that Jesus Christ himself could have sailed down from the heavens and won the Democratic nomination, only to be stomped out by Christie come Election Day.

I just want to run for a while and find some ice cream at the end to balance out the calorie intake and ex-take,” Booker jokes. “In Washington, it’s really exciting to be about the 21st—I think Wall Street Journal said I was the 21st mayor in American history to go straight from being mayor to being a United States senator.

And speaking of his former law career: Despite having resigned from his law firm once entering the mayor’s office, Booker received annual payments until 2011, during which time the firm was profiting handsomely off of Brick City.

That would be the Brick City that Booker professed to love with the fire of a thousand suns, but did little to fundamentally change.

It’s not about right or left, it really is about, ‘How can I pull people together to get things done?

’”Booker began trying to answer that question in 2002, when he challenged the incumbent mayor of Newark: Sharpe James, a gap-toothed, gold-chain-wearing caricature of a corrupt, urban New Jersey politician.